154. From Hell to Heaven - The Eternal Collection

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English
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The Marquis of Alchester is furious when his horse in the Derby Stakes of 1831 finishes in a dead heat, purely because of the unsporting behaviour of the rival horse’s owner, the Earl of Branscombe. The Marquis is doubly incensed when he hears that the Earl is arrogantly talking about marrying his Ward, who is an immensely wealthy heiress and he needs her riches to support his extravagant lifestyle. Bent on revenge, the Marquis visits an orphanage on his estate in search of an orphan waif he can pass of as his Ward and marry her to the unsuspecting Earl who has never the real Ward. Plucked from the hell of starvation and abuse at the hands of a wicked matron, the beautiful young Kistna is in Heaven at the Marquis’s magnificent house and soon finds that she is falling in love. But it seems inevitable that she is condemned to hell after all when the Marquis breaks her heart by offering her hand to the unpleasant and grasping Earl of Branscombe. "Barbara Cartland was the world’s most prolific novelist who wrote an amazing 723 books in her lifetime, of which no less than 644 were romantic novels with worldwide sales of over 1 billion copies and her books were translated into 36 different languages.As well as romantic novels, she wrote historical biographies, 6 autobiographies, theatrical plays and books of advice on life, love, vitamins and cookery.She wrote her first book at the age of 21 and it was called Jigsaw. It became an immediate bestseller and sold 100,000 copies in hardback in England and all over Europe in translation.Between the ages of 77 and 97 she increased her output and wrote an incredible 400 romances as the demand for her romances was so strong all over the world.She wrote her last book at the age of 97 and it was entitled perhaps prophetically The Way to Heaven. Her books have always been immensely popular in the United States where in 1976 her current books were at numbers 1 & 2 in the B. Dalton bestsellers list, a feat never achieved before or since by any author.Barbara Cartland became a legend in her own lifetime and will be best remembered for her wonderful romantic novels so loved by her millions of readers throughout the world, who have always collected her books to read again and again, especially when they feel miserable or depressed.Her books will always be treasured for their moral message, her pure and innocent heroines, her handsome and dashing heroes, her blissful happy endings and above all for her belief that the power of love is more important than anything else in everyone’s life."

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Published 01 December 2016
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EAN13 9781782138822
Language English

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AUTHOR’S NOTE
A dead heat at the Derby Stakes begins this tale of love and hate, misery and happiness. There have actually been two dead heats at the ‘Blue Riband of the Turf’, the greatest horse race in the world. In 1828 the Duke of Rutland’s Cadland dead heated with The Colonel owned by the Hon. Edward Petre. Under the then rules of racing this dead heat was run off later in the afternoon and Cadland won. One of the most historic Derby’s ever run took place in 1884. At the spring meeting at Newmarket Prince Batthyany was in a high state of excitement as Galliard, a son of his much loved Galopin was expected to win the Two Thousand Guineas. However, the strain was too much for the Prince, who had a fatal heart attack as he entered the Jockey Club luncheon rooms. His death undoubtedly altered the course of Turf history, as the classic nominations of his colt St. Simon was thereby rendered void according to the rule that then existed. St.Simon proved to be the greatest racehorse he had ever owned and certainly the greatest sire ever known to the English Turf. There is no doubt that he would have won the 1884 Derby. In his absence the race resulted in a dead heat between Sir John Willoughby’s Harvester and Mr. John Hammond’s St, Gatien. The Stewards gave the owners the opportunity of having a run off or dividing the race and they unanimously decided to divide the prize money between them.
CHAPTER ONE ~ 1831
There had been a long wait, as was usual with a big field and then a number of false starts. The Marquis of Alchester, with his glasses trained on the horses in the far distance, gave an impatient sigh. “Feeling anxious, Linden?” Peregrine Wallingham asked. “No, merely confident,” the Marquis replied and his friend laughed. “That is exactly what Branscombe says.” The Marquis’s expression darkened. He was well aware that the Earl of Branscombe’s Gunpowder was a definite danger to his own, Highflyer, but, as he had just said, he was confident that his horse would be the winner. The huge crowd sprawling over the hill was as usual on Derby Day different from the crowd at any other Race Meeting. The Derby Stakes, which was the Blue Riband of the Turf, was a day to which all sportsmen looked forward and, although it was not an official holiday, there was hardly an employer in the country who did not expect his employees to absent themselves if they were anywhere within reach of Epsom. They’re off!” The cry went up with a big shout as the flag was down and the horses began the long run that led them round Tattenham Corner and up the straight in front of the stands. This was a golden opportunity for pickpockets, for necks were craned and the attention of everybody was on the horses. In less than three minutes it would be all over and confirmation of the race result would be signalled by a flight of pigeons circling up over the stands and carrying the news of the winner to the newspapers and bookies in different parts of the country. There were roars from the crowd all along the course. In the stand of the Jockey Club, where the more affluent owners watched their own horses and those they had backed with a concentration that had no need for audible expression, there was silence. Peregrine Wallingham was aware that on this occasion there was an extra tension owing to the rivalry between the Earl of Branscombe and the Marquis of Alchester. They were old enemies and, because he was the Marquis’s oldest and closest friend, he disliked the Earl almost as much as his friend did. One reason was that the Earl of Branscombe considered himself not only the finest sportsman in the country but also of such importance that he conceded that only the King took precedence in front of him. Dukes, Marquises and other Earls he dismissed with a wave of his hand and asserted with some truth that his blood and his ancient title made him superior to them and that it was only due to some strange quirk of fate that he was not in fact a candidate for the Throne itself! What was so infuriating, especially for the Marquis, was the fact that there was justification for the Earl’s assertions and he was indeed outstanding and exceptionally fortunate in the Sporting World. Certainly his horses had in the last two years won many of the Classic races, but then so had those belonging to the Marquis. Both gentlemen were exceptional shots, outstanding amateur pugilists and could speak in the House of Lords so eloquently that their fellow Peers flocked into the Chamber to hear them, especially when they were opposing each other. But while the Marquis was popular with his contemporaries, the Earl was not. Although both habitually gave themselves airs, the Earl was, everybody decided behind his back, almost intolerable. Now the horses had rounded Tattenham Comer and were galloping at a good pace up the last stretch of the course. When there was a large field, it was difficult to see exactly which horse was ahead until they
drew nearer. Then as the crowd began to chant the names it was easy to hear the cry of, ‘Gunpowder! Gunpowder!’ being drowned by the roaring of ‘Highflyer! Highflyer!’ They drew nearer and Peregrine Wallingham murmured beneath his breath, “My God, it’s going to be a close finish!” He knew that the Marquis at his side was aware of it too, not from anything he said but because of a sudden rigidity about his long athletic body. Then on the other side of him Peregrine Wallingham heard the Earl mutter impatiently, “Come on, blast you!” Now the cries of the crowd grew louder and, as the horses drew nearer, Peregrine Wallingham realised that the two in the lead were riding literally neck and neck. It was completely impossible to guess which one would pass the Winning Post first. The jockeys had their whips raised, but there was really no need to use them. Both horses were aware that they had to beat the other and were striving with every muscle in their bodies to get ahead. Then, as they flashed past the Winning Post, there was a sudden sound that those familiar with racing knew was one of astonishment. For the second time in fifty years the Derby Stakes seemed to have finished in a dead heat. “Mine by a nose, I think!” the Earl trumpeted, aggressively taking his glasses from his eyes. The Marquis did not deign to answer. He merely turned and walked from the box followed by his friend, Peregrine Wallingham, and they hurried through the crowds to the gate where the horses, when they had been pulled in, would leave the course. “I have never seen anything so extraordinary!” Peregrine exclaimed when he could walk beside the Marquis. “I don’t believe that there was an inch between them!” the Marquis replied, “whatever Branscombe may pretend.” “You are right,” Peregrine agreed. “At the same time it’s a pity you could not have won. Branscombe has been boasting for the last month that his horse was a sure winner and I am certain in consequence he has shortened the odds.” The Marquis gave his friend a sharp glance. “You surely did not back Gunpowder?” “Of course not,” Peregrine replied. “I put my shirt on Highflyer, but unfortunately I had not much of it left!” The Marquis laughed. “You should stick to horses,” he said. “They are cheaper in the long run than Cyprians.” “I found that out a long time ago,” Peregrine agreed. “But that little dancer fromCovent Garden has a magnet that makes the guineas fly out of my pocket quicker than I can put them in!” He spoke ruefully, but the Marquis was not listening. He was watching his horse trotting back down the course and was aware that his jockey was having a violent altercation with the rider of the Earl’s Gunpowder. Only when the noise of the crowds cheering them from behind the rails made it impossible for them to hear each other could they concentrate on riding triumphantly through the lane cleared for them towards the Weighing-In room. As the horses entered the enclosure, the Marquis was waiting and, when his jockey dismounted, he said to him, “What happened, Bennett?” “Bumped and obstructed me ’e did when we was comin’ into the straight after roundin’ Tattenham Corner, my Lord. I ’d’ave beat ’im easy, but for that!” The Marquis was scowling. “Is this true?” he asked. “You are sure of what you are saying?” “’E were behavin’ as bad as be possible for a rider to be, my Lord, and that’s the truth.” “I believe you,” the Marquis said, “but I doubt if there is anything we can do about it. Get weighed in.”
Carrying his saddle the jockey went towards the Weighing-In machine, which the Stewards were supervising and, as he reached it, the Earl’s jockey passed him with a grin on his face. As he did so, he said in a voice only he could hear, “Squeakin’ are you? Won’t do you no good!” Bennett had been warned by the Marquis in the past not to brawl or to enter into arguments in front of the Stewards. Right or wrong it always reflected on both of those concerned and, although Bennett pressed his lips together in what was almost a grimace, he said nothing. Only when he re-joined the Marquis did he say, “I’ll get that Jake Smith if it’s the last thing I does! ’E rides dirty and that’s why no one would employ ’im till ’is Lordship took ’im on.” The Marquis’s eyes narrowed. “Is that a fact?” he enquired. “’Tis well known, my Lord. Jake Smith were beggin’ for a ride till three months ago.” The Marquis did not speak for a moment. Then he congratulated his jockey, promised the usual reward which was a very generous one for riding the winner and re-joined Peregrine Wallingham. He told him what he had heard and Peregrine said, “I heard that Smith was a questionable jockey before he was taken on by Branscombe, but he has never ridden a horse that I would wish to back. I will find out what I can about him, Linden.” “Do that,” the Marquis agreed, “but now, I think, unless you particularly want to stay for the next race, we should be getting back to London. The crowds are going to make it an exhausting journey and the quicker we leave the course the better.” “I am ready to go,” Peregrine Wallingham replied. “What is more,” the Marquis went on, “I have no wish to return to the box and hear Branscombe averring, which he is sure to do, that he is in reality the winner.” “It has been officially declared a dead heat,” Peregrine said, “so you share the prize money of two thousand eight hundred pounds.” “That will not prevent him from saying I am not entitled to it,” the Marquis said grimly. “God, how I dislike that man!” Peregrine laughed. “That is obvious and I admit that his conceit and bumptiousness gets under everybody’s skin, except, of course, the Monarch’s.” The Marquis said nothing. He was only too well aware that the new King, William IV, had been beguiled by the Earl’s inflated estimation of his own abilities into believing him to be an exceptionally good advisor. The Earl had jumped at the chance and as a Courtier had said somewhat bitterly, “I have always found one Monarch enough, but when one has two of them, I find my position almost insupportable!” Trusting, good-natured and rather stupid, the King was anxious to make a good impression on his subjects and with the help of his dowdy and dull little German wife to have a very different Court from that of his brother, King George IV. He swept away the immorality and the raffishness of the Court, which had scandalised the country, but unfortunately the laughter had gone too, as those who attended the King at Windsor, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle were sometimes dismayed to find. The Princess Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador, had complained to the Marquis that the Court was now intolerably dreary and dull. “There is no possibility of even having a reasonable conversation,” she said bitterly. “In the evening we all sit at a round table. The King snoozes whilst the Queen does needlework and talks with great animation, but with never a word of politics.” The Marquis had laughed. He knew the Princess who was vivacious, witty and usually very indiscreet, was undoubtedly suffering and he only hoped that the Earl of Branscombe was finding his self-appointed position a bore.
Actually, when the Marquis was alone with the King, he found him, although inclined to be repetitive, quite interesting on subjects on which he was an authority. But he had in many ways to agree with the Duke of Wellington, who had said in his blunt manner, “Really my Master is too stupid! When at table he wishes to make a speech, I always turn to him my deaf ear so as not to be tempted to contradict him!” The Marquis began to move swiftly through the crowd of touts, gypsies, confidence men and beggars. There were dwarfs, clowns, acrobats, minstrels and tipsters, all of whom added to the hubbub of the occasion. As quickly as was possible, the Marquis found his phaeton and, as soon as he was driving his horses in the direction of London, Peregrine remarked, “I presume the King, who knows little about racing, will be pleased that Branscombe’s horse came in first, even if he is forced to share the honour and glory with you.” “Doubtless the King will believe that Branscombe would have won if Highflyer had not passed the Winning Post at the same moment by a sheer fluke!” The Marquis spoke bitterly and Peregrine was aware that the result rankled. Actually, he thought, it had been very exciting and certainly a surprise that few racegoers would have expected. Because he was genuinely fond of the Marquis he said consolingly, “Well, you and I, Linden, know that he only won by a foul, but it will not do any good to say so.” “No, of course not,” the Marquis agreed, “but I will do my best to see that damned jockey gets his deserts. I bet you any money you like that Branscombe knew what he was doing when he engaged the man.” “Of course he did!” Peregrine agreed. “He was determined to beat you by fair means or foul.” “That does not surprise me,” the Marquis said. “Branscombe has always been the same ever since he was at Eton. He has to be top and if you remember even there we were always running neck and neck for some position or other.” Peregrine laughed. The rivalry between the two boys had been the talk of the school and the other scholars had divided themselves equally behind one or the other. It had been very much the same when they had both gone to Oxford University. He himself had always disliked the Earl because he knew that, despite his success in the field of sport, he was fundamentally unsporting. He was not averse to taking an underhand advantage in any contest when he intended to be the winner. Some boys and young men sense with an almost clairvoyant perception the flaws in each other and Peregrine had always been quite sure that there was a canker somewhere in the Earl of which not many people were aware. The Marquis was different. Although he had his faults, he was in his friend’s mind a gentleman who would never do anything that was not completely straight and honourable. “What are you thinking about?” the Marquis enquired as they cleared the worst of the crowds and the horses were able to move more quickly. “You, as it happens.” “I am flattered!” the Marquis said sarcastically. “But why?” “I was comparing you to Branscombe, to his disadvantage.” “So I should think and I am not looking forward to the dinner this evening.” The Derby Dinner given by the Stewards of the Jockey Club was always a spectacular occasion and every winner of the Derby enjoyed the congratulations and the honour that was accorded to him on that particular evening. It would be particularly irksome, as Peregrine knew, for the Marquis to have to pretend that he enjoyed the Earl’s company and to repress the knowledge that their horses had only been equal owing
to foul riding by his jockey. “Let’s hope we need not stay long,” Peregrine said in an effort to cheer up his friend. “There are some very attractive little ‘pieces of muslin’ arrived from France at thePalace of Pleasurewhom you may find interesting as soon as we can get away.” The Marquis did not reply. Peregrine remembered that his friend usually found such houses a waste of time and so he asked quickly, “But I expect you have arranged to meet Lady Isobel.” There was just a note of doubt in the question as if he realised that recently the Marquis had not been seen as often as might have been expected with Lady Isobel Sidley. This was surprising, for she was not only an acknowledged beauty in London Society but was also quite obviously wildly passionately in love with the Marquis to the point where the whole Social world knew all about it. Lady Isobel had, Peregrine had often thought, been born too late. Her impetuous indiscretions were such as had been admired fifteen years ago by the Prince Regent. He had loved pretty women and he had certainly not wished them to be moral or prudent. Unfortunately Lady Isobel had never learned to control her feelings and her infatuation for the Marquis, which she had made no attempt to disguise, had already shocked the Queen. There was a distinct pause. Then with his eyes on his horses the Marquis said, “No. I shall not be seeing Isobel. To tell you the truth, Peregrine, I am no longer interested.” His friend turned to stare at him incredulously. He had thought that perhaps the Marquis might remonstrate with Isobel or curtail some of the time they were seen together in public, but that he should have finished with her completely was incredible. “Do you really mean that?” he enquired. The Marquis nodded. “I am bored.” There was no obvious reply to that and again there was silence as they drove on. Peregrine was thinking that it was typical of the Marquis to be so ruthless and make a decision that most men in his position would find it hard to implement. But the Marquis was very blunt and, if he was bored, then whoever was boring him would be shown the door and there would be no appeal against his decision to finish either a love affair or a friendship. And immediately. “Does Isobel know this?” Peregrine asked at length. “I have not yet told her in so many words,” the Marquis replied, “though I intend to do so when the opportunity arises. But I believe that she must have some inkling, as we have not seen each other for over a week.” Peregrine remembered seeing a groom in Sidley livery delivering a letter at the Marquis’s house when he had been with him that morning. He was certain that Lady Isobel would be very voluble on paper if she could not have the chance of saying what she thought in person. Suddenly he saw storm clouds ahead and only hoped that he would not be involved in them. Then, as if he knew that this was the moment when he must tell the Marquis what was on his mind and what had been worrying him considerably all day, he said, “Are you ready to hear something that will annoy you?” The way he spoke rather than what he said made the Marquis look at him sharply. “Does it concern Isobel?” “No, it has nothing to do with her,” Peregrine said quickly. “It is something I feel that I have to tell you and I have been waiting for a propitious moment.” “Which you think is now?” “I suppose it is as good a time as any,” Peregrine said a little ruefully. “As a matter of fact I was remembering that in the old days Kings cut off the heads of messengers who brought them bad news.” The Marquis laughed.